The families of those on board missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 have welcomed the deal struck between the Malaysian government and U.S. firm Ocean Infinity to resume an underwater search for the plane that went missing almost four years ago.
The airliner vanished nearly four years ago while flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 227 passengers and 12 crew on board.
Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai said a Houston-based private firm, Ocean Infinity, would search for MH370 in that 25,000-sq-km priority area on a "no-cure, no-fee" basis, meaning it will only get paid if it finds the plane.
The flight was carrying individuals and families from 14 different countries, though most of the passengers and crew were from China and Malaysia.
The operation is expected to be completed within 90 days, he said. Floating debris has been found far from where MH370 is thought to have crashed, but no sign of the main debris field has been found.
Ocean Infinity, which specializes in the collection of "high resolution geophysical seabed data", said in a press release that its command vessel, Seabed Constructor, is en route and "close to" the search area. "However, notwithstanding that uncertainty, this upcoming search is the best chance yet that the aircraft wreckage will be found", said Mearns, director of Blue Water Recoveries Ltd.
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The agreement with the American firm Ocean Infinity stipulates that a fee will only be paid if the wreckage of the Boeing 777-200 is discovered.
The Malaysian government and USA based ocean infinity are working on a contract that is expected to be finalized in the coming days.
Although the underwater search turned up nothing, small pieces of debris from the plane were washed up on islands in the Indian Ocean and on the African coast. Other methods such as studying satellite imagery also proved futile, but the search team was able to map out an area approximately the size of Vermont where the plane was most likely to be found.
A next-of-kin, Shin Kok Chau who was present today thanked the Malaysian government for not losing hope of finding the missing jet.
The AUVs will be equipped with side scan sonar, multi-beam echo sounder, sub-bottom profiler, HD camera, conductivity/temperature/depth sensor, self-compensating magnetometer, synthetic aperture sonar and a turbidity sensor. Search for the aircraft, which disappeared March 8, 2014, is set to resume soon.
A two-year long underwater search funded jointly by the Australian, Malaysian and Chinese governments for the aircraft formally ended in January 2017. Before vanishing in the Indian Ocean, it was last detected over northern Sumatra, Indonesia.